The Amulet of Samarkand
Published in 2003 by Doubleday Publishers
About the Author
Born in 1970, Jonathan Stroud began to write stories at a very young age. He completed his English Literature course from the University of York, he worked in London as an editor for the Walker Books store. During the 1990s, he started publishing his own works and quickly became a success.
Stroud lives in St. Albans, Hertfordshire with his 3 children and his wife Gina, an illustrator of children’s books.
This Trilogy was my favourite when I was young and I had the best time devouring these books. I decided to read them again because it’s fun to get an adult perspective of it now. This book is set in Britain where the commoner population is ruled by Magicians that run the country. Magicians are not allowed to breed but the commoners, by choice and for money, can give up their children to the magical community to be trained. Nathaniel is one of the young 5 year olds that is sold and trained to become part of this breed who serve this noble destiny. His master, Mr. Underwood is a middle ranking official in the Ministry of Internal Affairs and is cold and condescending. Nathaniel understands his lack of power easily enough and starts to grow a burning ambition to become one of the best. However, his impatience and pride results in a encounter with Simon Lovelace, a far more powerful magician with a better grasp on his lack of moral standards. After being insulted, Nathaniel vows revenge and devours magical texts and practices summoning without his master’s knowledge and consent. He summons a 5000 year old djinni, Bartimaeus and orders him to steal The Amulet of Samarkand from Lovelance. Before Nathaniel knows it, he is part of a larger conspiracy and a larger threat to the magical world he holds dear.
This book has several larger themes running parallel to Nathaniel’s narrative. The magicians are a bunch of oppressors, living largely off the commoner population’s revenue and guarding knowledge that could threaten their elite status. They are just conjurers of far more powerful beings such as djinni’s and demons whom they enslave and command. The Resistance is another narrative, led by a bunch of kids that have an aim to overthrow the magical community. Nathaniel, as a character, despite his young age is flawed and already moving to the dark side. His ambition and greed is plain to see – his whining and sense of entitlement annoying through the book. But there are sudden blazes of a conscience that do shine through and make you think that there is hope for him yet. Bartimaeus on the other hand is a skilful narrator – sardonic, sarcastic and brimming with confidence. His sense of self preservation reminds me of a Slytherin and his witty footnotes managed to make me laugh once in a while. This book is a great addition to the young adults section aged between 9 and 18. It makes for an entertaining read.